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Fukuda, Cariaso and Tamura start UFC 144 with wins

Maggie Hendricks
Cagewriter

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Tamura with big debut (Tracy Lee)

In the UFC's first trip to Japan since Zuffa bought the promotion, Riki Fukuda, Chris Cariaso and Issei Tamura were early winners at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Fukuda beats up Cantwell

Riki Fukuda dominated Steve Cantwell on the way to a 29-28, 30-27, 30-27 decision.

Fukuda got a takedown quickly in the first round and started throwing several big punches and elbows. Cantwell tried to grab an arm for a submission, but he couldn't do it. He finally returned to his feet to come on late in the round with kicks and a flying knee. In the second round. Cantwell defended a Fukuda takedown with a tight guillotine. As hard as Cantwell squeezed, Fukuda was still able to get out.

Fukuda took advantage of Cantwell's tiredness and landed several strike combinations. In the last 30 seconds of the round, Cantwell got a takedown and jumped on Fukuda's back. He fell off just before the horn sounded to end the round.

"My plan was to take him down more, but he had a very strong base.  I was in a car accident the last time so I had to take a break, but it was worth the wait and I would like to thank the UFC for giving me this opportunity," Fukuda said.

Cantwell again tried for a submission in the third round, but Fukuda came on late in the round to beat up Cantwell. An exhausted Cantwell tried to return strikes, but it was all Fukuda.

Cariaso takes close decision

Chris Cariaso took a tight decision over Takeya Mizugaki, winning 29-28 on all three judges' cards. Mizugaki dominated the first round with better striking, a takedown and submission defense. He fended off an omoplata attempt by Cariaso. Mizugaki returned to the clinch in the second round to fend off Cariaso's strikes. Mizugaki finally completed the takedown around the two-minute mark, but Cariaso stayed active on the bottom.

In the third round, Cariaso threw a high kick then slipped. Mizugaki took advantage of the fall and used it to control Cariaso on the ground. He was more active on top this time, trying to pass the guard, but it wasn't enough.

Tamura starts card with knockout

Issei Tamura made a memorable UFC debut, knocking out Tiequan Zhang in the first fight on the card.

In the first minute, each fighter took a turn knocking the other down before settling in for a grapple-heavy first round. The second round didn't last long, as Tamura landed a picture-perfect right hand and knocked Zhang right out. The fight was stopped at 0:32 in the second round.

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